Boston’s Chinatown, located in downtown Boston, is just five train stops away from the Harvard campus along the Red Line. It is the only historic Asian enclave in New England, with history dating back to its construction in the 1800s followed by the earliest wave of Chinese immigration in the early 1890s.
To power us through the day, my roommate and I made our first stop at Bánh Mì Hương Quê, a Vietnamese sandwich shop located on Washington St. near Empire Garden Restaurant, a popular Dim Sum place in Chinatown.
A worker at the store prepares bánh mì while chatting with customers in Cantonese. When she took my order for a Vietnamese iced coffee, she smiled and asked if I also want a bánh mì for the day.
The store is famous for their Vietnamese baguette sandwich, bánh mì, which comes with your choice of protein along with pâté, house mayo, assorted pickled veggies, cilantro, and jalapeño all together in a crunchy baguette. The store’s best seller is the bánh mì thịt nướng — a grilled beef bánh mì. So I ordered it.
The worker told us in Vietnamese that she has been living in the U.S. for almost 30 years and can also speak fluent Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese.
Our next stop was Ding Ho Fast Food, a Chinese food restaurant joint that has been around since 1980. The cozy little restaurant is hidden away on the corner of Harrison Avenue.
The store usually has three main starch options: lo mein, mei fun, and fried rice. The two proteins that are served daily are curry chicken and soy sauce chicken. Besides these main dishes, Ding Ho also serves dumplings and various kinds of Chinese-style soups.
The store workers shared with us in Mandarin that they are immigrants from Guangdong and have worked at Ding Ho for one to two decades. The store is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. However, they often start preparing the foods as early as at 6 a.m. in the morning.
In Mandarin, one of the two employees shared with us more about the long history of the store while preparing the next batch of food: vegetable stir fry.
Boston’s Chinatown is also known for its numerous bakery shops like Ho Yuen Bakery, located on Beach St. next to Gourmet Dumpling House.
Inside Great Taste Bakery & Restaurant, customers waited in line to order assortments of baked goods and pastries. The store functions both as a bakery and a typical Hong Kong-style restaurant, serving dim sum and other traditional dishes of rice noodles, hot pots, and sea foods.
Street vendors sell mangos, bananas, and dried foods on Beach Street. They remind my roommate, Kevin Liu ’23, of where he grew up in New York City's Chinatown.
We spoke to the owner of New Wing Wah Street Stall and learned that his family street market business has been in Chinatown for over a decade selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and Chinese New Year items.
The owner told us that he and his family often set up as early as 5 a.m. and the store often sells out at around 5 p.m.. Their street stall is known for its seafood items, the most popular of which are the dried scallop from Japan and China and oysters from China, Korea, and Japan.